ALAN v25n1 - From the Editors

Volume 24, Number 3
Spring 1997


In this issue of The Review we look at three dimensions of literature and the part it plays in our lives. First there is the use we as teachers can make of it. In the lead article Richard Peck considers the individual's vocabulary, individual writers like himself, individual teachers like one of his former selves, and individual teenagers. He reminds us that literacy -- and the abundant vocabulary that is somewhere near the heart of that often abused term -- is important for practical as well as aesthetic and personal reasons: "Survival regularly depends upon communicating with strangers." Later in the issue, three teachers share an approach to reading literature and writing literature, "dependent authorship," that can get students on the road to the literacy that Peck seems to be suggesting; and the example they use is the short story "Priscilla and the Wimps," one of Peck's most popular stories. And Jeffrey Kaplan -- who a few volumes ago shared his own Christmas story with us as a way of looking at the treatment of Jews in YA literature -- urges us to consider acting as a "way in" to YA literature for students. Finally, Joyce Graham reviews a new book about YA literature in the classroom that she finds insightful.

The second cluster of articles seems to us to consider the perennial question, "What is YA literature?" Novelist and teacher Terry Davis uses the novels of Chris Crutcher to explore a disturbing trend he sees in the publishing, subsequent labeling, and final classifying in book stores of novels like those of Crutcher. Graphically (forgive the pun), he considers what cover design alone can do to books. Then Susannah Sheffer reads two novels by Crutcher and finds depth that both teenage and adult readers can respond to, raising the question: Why are these novels YA? In an interview with Paul Janeczko, teachers Patricia Bloem and Anthony Manna explore the selection and organization of poems in an anthology. Janeszko suggests that poems are poems: "The first rule is that I need to like the poems myself," he says and reminds us, "Poetry shouldn't be put on a pedestal, because poetry is everyday stuff."

Several articles look at the powerful tie between all human experience and the people and lives in recent novels about young adults. Gail Munde considers what happens to children who are abandoned by their parents, and Dirk Mattson examines the portrayal of orphans in four YA novels. Stephanie Yearwood discusses Song of Be, a novel set in Namibia, that looks from a different vantage point at abandonment and reconciliation. And Katherine Paterson, receiving the Scott O'Dell Award for her novel, Jif , takes us into her mind as she considers writing a novel about a child left behind. A fear that we all -- as child, teen, adult -- have had. That insight, we think, pulls it all together: adult readers still have the child within them, the same fears and doubts; truly thoughtful YA novels speak to each of us as they explore who we were.